Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Avatar Yourself

I've had that avatar picture sitting at the bottom of my page for ages now, and although I thought it had all been done before, I was surprised at the amount of people still looking for a way to 'avatar' themselves.
Ive found a few screenshots of my progression, and here I will post them with captions to try to help out those still having trouble. I hope you find it informative :)

So, we start off with a clear image of the person you wish to avatar-ize!
A higher resolution picture will work better. Mine is 2048x1536

*Please note, that although I will try to be as specific as possible, I believe that exact measurements and precise digits are where people usually go wrong. A 15pixel brush might suite my picture fine, but on your picture it could be too small (if your image is HUGE) or too big (if your face takes up more of the picture) The examples go on.
I encourage you to trial and error with whatever brush sizes and measurements fit your picture.

To begin, we are going to make a new layer above the picture. This will be our 'tint' layer, and will give the overall image its blue look. Fill the layer with a blue colour, and set the layer type to either linear light, multiply, vivid light (just see which looks best for your picture).

*Note: Don't worry about the colour being perfect, as it is usually changed a few times anyway before the end result. Things like the skin texture and eyes can affect the colour. At the moment, the colour is just so you can have a better view of what you are doing.


Now we will use the selection tool and select the eyes. I have given my selection tool a 10 - 15px feather.
Now you want to COPY the eyes, and paste them on a new layer. Use the transform / perspective tool to resize the eyes and give them a slight slant.
The feather means that the new 'resized' eyes should still blend fairly well with the cheeks.

Selecting the bottom layer (Your photo) got to Filter > Liquify.
Once in the liquify interface, use its tools to expand the lips to give them a fuller look, and stretch the nose so that it has more of a 'flat' surface on the top.
I have used the 'bloat' tool, though you can experiment with the other liquify tools. You could even adjust the cheek bones and chin to give them a sharper, vivid look.

Step 4:
Eyes can be painted on, or 'borrowed' from a high definition poster. Surprisingly enough, I would say that painting them is easier, though I prefer the results of the copied eye from the poster. (Just be prepared, if you do it this way, it can be quite fiddly.So, assuming you want to paint your eye, keep in mind that the trick behind it is the smudge tool.
Select your eye, block fill it a colour. I have chosen a yellow.
Paint the black circle into the middle of the eye.
roughly draw in a jagged line of a slightly lighter colour, and use your smudge tool to blend it in. Not too much, though, because you want it too keep some texture.
In my example picture I have repeated this step with a few different shades, though its entirely up to you.

Once the colours are sorted, add a dash of light grey, with a lighter grey overlapping it. Smudge them in. This gives the reflection look, and makes your eyes look alive.

If you are copying and pasting your eye, I recommend this link. Good Avatar Eye

There isn't an awful lot to say about cropping and pasting, but keep in mind that you can colour adjust your eye to fit the rest of the picture, you don't always need to adjust the picture to fit the eye. I would also recommend the liquify tool once again, to really mold your photograph around the avatar eyes that you are importing.

Step 5:
Now to give them that leathery look. I downloaded an image from google, of a leather texture. This is the one I used.Skin Texture
With this, you want to tile / resize it so that it covers all of your exposed skin, on a layer above your original photo but beneath the colour tinting layer. Then you should go in and use a fluffy eraser tool to remove the texture from things such as hair.
Once your skin texture is the same shape, flatten all layers that have the leather texture on them (by selecting them, right clicking, and then merging layers).
If you did not use more than 1 layer, then do not worry about that last step.

*Note: Multiple layers would be used if you tiled the image by copying and pasting multiple times, as each time you click paste, it would paste it on a new layer by default. It is important for these layers to be compressed, otherwise there will be a 'seam' where one layer overlaps with the other.

NOW that you have one later of skin texture, change its layer mode to 'multiply'.
I told you that skin texture would end up changing the colour anyway! Do not fear, it happened to me also, check my reference picture. Because of the red of the leather, it has extremely darkened our picture. All you need to do is play with the tint layer, change the layer mode, maybe lighten its colour, etc. Just remember that until the very end, the tint layer is a variable. While adjusting your tint layer again, you can use the adjustments > levels menu on the original picture to make your character pop from the background. Just play with the layers.

Erase holes in the texture layer where the eyes and lips are.
Repeat the above process for the lips, using a slightly different texture, such as this one here.

Step 6:
Now its time to get fancy!
using a graphics tablet or mouse, on a new layer, start to draw the tribal patterns. I drew these using a darker blue, with a layer mode set to 'colour'.
Don't forget the neck and shoulders, or whatever else is exposed!
*Note: You should draw the patterns on half of the body, so that you can just mirror the other half.

Step 7:
Time for Dot to Dot!
Making a new layer, as always, get drawing your dots!
I drew them by getting a white brush with 0% hardness, and just making patterns with them. Some dots are bigger than others, though their size range doesn't vary too much.
make sure this layer is just underneath your tint layer, the slight blue tint makes it stick to the character, where pure white orbs looks fake.
Again, you can just do half, and then mirror the dots.
You could even add a gaussian blur to the dots layer for a really soft look.

That pretty much sums this up. Now is the time for all the minor tweaks. Making the eyes blend to the face better if they were taken from the poster, or making the patterns look like they follow the curves of the body.
Again I will say that you should also try changing the tint layer, as the results can make all the difference.
Below are some of the variations I have made, just by adding a new layer, and changing the hue / saturation.

And here is a completely separate image of another friend of mine.The gecko was made in pretty much the same way. A tint layer, a glowy-dot layer, etc. The glowing effect was done by duplicating the colour and adding a gaussian blur underneath the gecko layer.

The pink reflections on her face were done with a fluffy brush on a new layer, with the layers Opacity set to 40%.

I hope you enjoyed this blog entry!
If there is anything I can help you with, please feel free to drop a question in the comment box!
Until next time :)


  1. Interesting but wish it'd go away! D:

  2. Quite a cool effect, thanks!

  3. haha, king mush... not a fan of avatar, eh? :P

  4. i might do this to have a funny facebook picture!

  5. it's funnier when you use real paint :)

  6. cool, following!